As we continued to hear from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, Fr. Steve addressed the importance of the kingdom of God being a kingdom of reconciliation and mercy. Jesus lived this truth out so deeply that even on the cross he cried out, Father, forgive them. For they know not what they do.” As disciples of Jesus we too must be people of mercy, forgiveness and reconciliation.
You have heard the commandment, "An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth." But what I say to you is: offer no resistance to injury. When a person strikes you on the right cheek, turn and offer him the other. .......... My command to you is: love your enemies, pray for your persecutors.
How difficult it is to clothe ourselves in the Gospel, to clothe ourselves in Christ! Jesus expects a lot out of us. In life some of the most miserable people I have met are people who hold grudges. Sometimes it can be among co-workers, sometimes it can be against brothers or sisters, sons or daughters, mothers and fathers, sometimes it is against the parish priest. Whatever it is, when we choose to hold that grudge, that anger, it does far more to hurt us than it does to hurt the person with whom we are angry. Our hatred can turn our own personal lives, our days and nights, into a hellish turmoil. It keeps us from living the Gospel and it is sinful. What does Jesus call us to do with people whom we have a difficult time loving and accepting: Forgive them, Pray for them, Love them. That can bring about change and transformation - if not in the other person, in our own hearts. You have heard it said, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink.” For in doing so, you will heap coals of fire on his head.” A better translation reads: For in this way, his face will burn with shame. And he may very well be called to shame and repentance.
During WWII Corrie Ten Boom was a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp. She was one of the few survivors and after the war she traveled across Europe giving talks and urging citizens of rival nations to forgive one another for war crimes. One night after a talk in Munich, Germany, a man approached her and held out his hand. Corrie recognized him immediately, and she was shocked. She froze - it was one of the most hated guards of the camp, where she was held prisoner. She couldn't reach out her hand towards the guard. As she stood their frozen, she began to pray, "Jesus, I cannot forgive this man. Help me to forgive him."
Corrie tells us at that moment she received the strength from God to reach out and take the man's hand in true forgiveness. Not only did the guard experience the freedom of being forgiven, he most likely felt deeper shame, but Corrie experienced the freedom of forgiving one who had hurt her. Through her forgiving act, Corrie clothed herself in the Gospel, she clothed herself in Christ. And she found incredible freedom. The Gospel calls you and me to no less.